WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert congratulates Caitlin Clark, who was selected first overall by the Indiana Fever in the 2024 WNBA draft

New York (AFP) - Caitlin Clark, who smashed records on and off the court in a dazzling US college career, was selected first in the WNBA draft on Monday amid expectations she will have a transformative effect on women’s professional basketball.

Clark, 22, was taken first overall by the Indiana Fever – a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2016 and that had the second-lowest attendance in the league in 2023 with an average of 4,066 fans per game.

With the University of Iowa star joining last year’s overall top pick Aliyah Boston in Indiana, however, all that seems set to change.

In anticipation of her selection, the WNBA has already scheduled 36 of the Fever’s 40 games next season for national television.

Even before the draft the Fever had begun selling a limited amount of single-game tickets, betting that the basketball-mad Midwestern state of Indiana would be prime territory for “Clark-mania.”

Seats for games against Connecticut and Los Angeles sold out within hours of going on sale.

Clark, whose fame is built on a foundation of on-court excellence that saw her eclipse Pete Maravich’s 54-year-old all-time college basketball scoring record, was cheered by fans at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, who packed the draft venue in anticipation that she would lead a star-studded WNBA class.

She admitted she felt anxious as the minutes ticked by before the Fever announced their selection.

“I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was in second grade and it’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs,” she said in an interview with broadcaster ESPN.

“I always just believed in myself… I told my mom before this, you know, I earned it, and that’s why I’m so proud of it.”